Tuesday, December 25, 2018

great Chasam Sofer on shibud Mitzrayim

Last post I mentioned Rashi's explanation that Parshas VaYechi is a parsha stuma to indicate that the hearts of Bnei Yisrael became closed, as Yaakov's coming down to Egypt and his death there marked the start of the shibud.  Everyone asks: Chazal tell us that it was not until "vayamas Yosef v'kol echav v'kol ha'dor ha'hu," as we read in our parsha, the death of Yosef and the shevatim, that the shibud in Mitzrayim started.  It didn't start with the arrival in Egypt.

One can answer very simply that there are different degrees of shibud.  To some degree, just being in Mitzrayim was shibud of galus.  The shibud of enslavement, however, did not start until later. 

Chasam Sofer (first piece in VaYechi) says a derush answer that speaks to our times.  In Parshas Bechukosai the Torah concludes the opening section of brachos by telling us, "Ani Hashem Elokeichem asher hotzeisi eschem mei'Eretz Mitzrayim mi'hiyos lahem avadim, ve'eshbor motos ulchem v'oleich eschem komimiyus." (26:13)  Hashem took us out of Egypt to free us, so he promises to break the burdensome yoke on our back.  Asks the Chasam Sofer: shouldn't this be the first bracha in that parsha -- not the last?  Shouldn't breaking the yoke we toil under be the first step in liberating us, before promising us the brachos of prosperity, peace, "v'nasati mishkani b'sochichem," etc? 

Chasam Sofer answers that there are two types of burdens we toil under.  There is the burden of persecution in whatever form it takes, whether it be more overt, e.g. pogroms, whether it be less overt, e.g. BDS.  But then there is another burden that is more subtle.  A frum Jew goes out today to go shopping and the stores are filled with decorations, holiday music, the tree is decked out so nicely.  We're talking about a frum Jew, so he knows this is not for him -- he's not going to bring a tree in his house and hang up a stocking by the fireplace.  But in his heart, maybe he feels a little like he is missing out.  As the Rambam writes in Shmoneh Perakim, a Jew doesn't need to say that bacon doesn't taste good -- it may taste very good, just we can't have it.  He knows he has to take out a second mortgage to pay yeshiva tuition, and there is no question he will do so -- but that doesn't mean he doesn't think of the nice car he could have if he didn't have that expense.  He is going to buy glatt food, but that doesn't mean he doesn't see the price of Purdue in the supermarket ad.  He does whatever he is supposed to, he is committed -- but boy, is frumkeit a burden to carry. 

The Torah in Bechukosai is telling us that Hashem will give us all the brachos we need to do mitzvos easily -- we will have the money to spend on tuition, food so plentiful that glatt will be the same price as Purdue, etc.  Why?  Because Hashem wants us to treat Torah and mitzvos like something we love to and want to do, not like a burden.  Torah is not meant to be a yoke to slave and toil under -- that's the burden the Torah promises to remove.  You don't feel like a slave to something if you love doing it, and Hashem wants us to love doing Torah

Coming back to Rashi, it was not until the death of Yosef and his brothers that the physical enslavement of Klal Yisrael started.  But there was a shibud, a burden, that set in even before that.  While Yaakov Avinu was still alive, Klal Yisrael lived Torah with joy and enthusiasm.  When Yaakov Avinu passed on, Torah and mitzvos took on a different tone.  Egyptian society with all its temptations beckoned, and even if a Jew kept true to his beliefs, observance itself, even absent any persecution, became a toil, a burden, a shibud.  


  1. "While Yaakov Avinu was still alive, Klal Yisrael lived Torah with joy and enthusiasm. When [he] passed on,...observance...became a toil"

    was Yaakov motivated by a particular and constant vision of the Shechinah dwelling among his descendants someday (Bechukosai 26:12), a vision intensely evocative of [based on his feelings for] Rachel*?

    after Yisrael's passing, did the Klal glimpse instead, from time to time, a 'shechinah' Nefertiti**??

    *the Rachel for whom his seven years of work seemed but a few days (29:20)

    **or in our day dream at midnight of a 'tikkun' Nefertiti???

  2. Where is this in the Chasam Sofer, I can't seem to find it?

    1. First piece: http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=21622&st=&pgnum=94